Regular naps prevent old age, especially if you take them when driving – Advice in a Traffic Police Manual circa 1956

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work,” replied comedian Woody Allen to the journalist, doing a profile, “I want to achieve it through not dying.”

Jonathan knows how not to die because he’s still living. Or, in his words, “so far, so good.”

No one’s quite sure how old he is exactly but most estimates place it at 190. Translation: if he orders three-minute eggs at a restaurant, it’s likely the waiters will ask for the money up-front.

I mean, you never know!

But he’s not likely to because Jonathan is a giant tortoise. Moreover, the Guinness Book of Records says it’s the oldest land animal to have ever lived.

Jonathan is estimated to have been born in 1832, the same year as Lewis Carroll but the latter only lived long enough to complete Alice in Wonderland and its sequel – Through the Looking Glass – before kicking the old b.

The year of birth, 1932, would make Jonathan 190 this year. To put that in a Malaysian context, Jonathan was born before Georgetown was made the capital of the Straits Settlements.

In the context of the United States, it was the year Andrew Jackson became US President and it was a full five years before Queen Victoria ascended the British throne and dubbed herself the Empress of India.

Like Lewis Carroll before her, Queen V also kicked the old b and her niece Elizabeth currently occupies the British throne. Much like love or Father Time, however, Jonathan continues to thrive even as Queen V’s grandson Charles, 72, remains uncrowned.

But the Bonnie Prince’s unfazed about it and remains admiring of his mother, the Queen. Indeed, he admitted as much to Jonathan recently.

“My mother was strict with me and my siblings but she tortoise well,” said Charles in his birthday wishes to Jonathan.

For reasons of privacy, Jonathan moved to the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic in 1882 when he currently resides. Even so, it only moved after it was finally convinced that its previous Famous Emigre Napoleon Bonaparte had not only left but had long kicked the old b as well. People had a habit of doing that around the old turtle.

But Jonathan’s famous and happy on the island. “He is a local icon, symbolic of persistence in the face of change,” Joe Hollins, Jonathan’s vet said. Still, the island’s Fire Department has banned any celebration of the beast’s birthday after the cake for its 150th caused a not-inconsiderable prairie fire.
In his twilight years, Jonathan is blind and can’t smell but still grazes on the grounds of the governor of the island’s residence where he lives with fellow giant tortoises David, Emma and Fred. David is happier than Fred but that, as you will discover, is another story.

He is fed by hand once a week to ensure he gets enough calories. But there’s no reason for pity though: his other main interests remain sex and sleeping – in that order.

The only problem is, well, he doesn’t seem especially picky.

“In spite of his age, Jonathan still has good libido and is seen frequently to mate with Emma and sometimes Fred.”

It isn’t clear what Fred thinks about this somewhat unorthodox arrangement: he declined comment.



You can live to be a hundred if you forego all those things that made you want to live to be a hundred in the first place

Woody Allen

I recently attended an older friend’s birthday party. I mean, there were so many candles on the cake we had to keep a prudent fire extinguisher about. 

And even though I attended, the median age of the guests was still 70. Ok, I lied: the only reason the median age there was 70 was because we had a child at the do. 

Tempus fugit or, literally, “time flies”. And how it does, irretrievably and with an awful finality. One minute I was a teenager who couldn’t wait to grow up to find out about girls, and the next, I was in my mid-30s and somebody had pressed the fast-forward button on my life’s time clock. 

I realise now that I fairly whizzed through the phase when I used to be adik (little brother) to anyone who did not know me. The salutation made me feel that everything was hunky-dory in my world. 

Then, one day when I was lining up to pay for my lunch at the canteen of the New Straits Times’ offices, a mere slip of a girl at the counter intoned matter-of-factly: “Tiga ringgit abang.” (Three dollars, older brother).

Now, of course, I’ve graduated to the grander title of “Uncle” from people I’m perfectly sure aren’t related to me. 

And the worst part is receiving it from people that shouldn’t be calling you that in the first place. 

Example: I called a cab recently and the driver turned out to be a fellow who should have had no business driving anything much less a cab. I mean, he had to be somewhere in his 70s. 

And he had the cheek to ask: “Going to the club-ah Uncle?”

How does the Road Transport Department even give them permits?

It’s been over 40 years since I graduated, and my marriage has entered its 37th year. Yikes! It used to be about spills and thrills. Now it’s about ills and pills. Next, it’ll be about wills! 

I kid you not.  

There are the things you miss. Hair, for instance. I used to have masses of it. In university, I grew hair long enough to rest on my shoulders because I could. I also played guitar in a band and I thought it looked cool.

Sometime in my 50s, it began “thinning.” Now, that’s a grim word and I regret all the snide jokes I used to tell my bald friends.

Sample example: I was about to tell you a joke that would make half the hair on your head fall out, but I see you’ve heard it….


I have even briefly considered a wig but most hairpieces are easily detectable, and although they do not show it, I suspect most people are slightly contemptuous of people who wear wigs. 

And the really nice wigs, the ones that could pass off as genuine: those can go for as much as a few thousand bucks. I mean, that’s too steep a price toupee, surely? 

And don’t for a minute, buy all the garbage they say about “growing old gracefully.” It’s just a nice way of saying you’re slowly but surely looking worse. 

My wife still looks great though which brings me to my greatest fear. 

It’s when people start openly asking what she’s doing with such an old man!